Greater Living
Important: COVID-19 Testing, Booster, & Visitor Policy

Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Beth Sykes

December 23, 2019
As a young Canadian consultant in the 1950s and '60s, Beth Sykes, who self-identified as "a bit of a second-hand rose," frequented a used clothing boutique.

"They finally tweaked onto the idea that they had one person who was my size who was on the TV all the time and brought in hardly-used clothes," Beth said. "They fit! So, every time she brought clothes in, they would call me up to try them on."

Little did Beth know, 50 years later, she would be volunteering at another popular boutique in Baltimore.

Beth began volunteering at GBMC's Nearly New Sale shortly after her husband, Zene, a professor in Johns Hopkins' School of Hygiene, died in May 1996.

"I came to the sales for years as a patron. Been with them for all my life it seems," Beth said. "I knew Heidi Donner, a widow of a Hopkins professor and she was after me forever to come and join her. When Zene died, it seemed logical she was right after me again. I started for one morning and that wasn't enough. I wanted to be busier than that, so it's grown to my being here every time we're open."

She has always worked in receiving, and, when she first started, filled in on the managerial side of the sale. Currently, she prepares patron's paperwork for the computer as well as prices pictures, lamp shades and other items as they are donated. She enjoys feeling useful, but the work is just a small part of what brings her back each day.

"This is my social life here actually," Beth said. "I feel very grateful that I have not only the will to want to work, but the energy to do the job well."

She fills the rest of her day, not at the Sale, writing with a group at Pickersgill Retirement Community where she lives, recalling and recording memories. Beth has always loved history, which inspires her to continue with the Nearly New Sale, as each donated item comes with its own history, and she enjoys seeing families grow as they come in year after year.

"It's interesting the way this operation works," Beth said. "If you grow up in a family that uses this shop as a place to donate, they think of it in terms of sales. Even if they move away, they'll come home to visit their families at a time when the sale is on.

"I can't say enough about GBMC as a place to volunteer. They're very good to volunteer with. They're good to us. They treasure us."

And GBMC treasures Beth, as well as the countless other volunteers who dedicate their time to Nearly New.
Greater Living
IMPORTANT Visitor Policy Changes

Recent Stories
In the Media